Who Does Our We Include?

A Meditation for Thanks-giving and Thanks-grieving

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing,
the first line of a favorite Thanksgiving hymn
sung over and over year after year,
but these days I wonder, who is the “we” in that sacred song?
I have known for years it does not include turkeys,
as a vegetarian I am not joking,
the right of animals to live is very important to me,
not to mention how if we ate less meat
there would be more grains and other foods
for starving children and even adults.

But does our “we” include Native peoples
whose ground is no longer theirs, belonging
now to us, the white descendants of those
who took the land for a few beads or over dead bodies,
gunfights, cavalry charges, and disease
all playing a part in creating many trails
where tears and loss were, and still are,
markers on the way to landlocked prisons,
somebody’s so clever idea of fair trade:
after all, we’re civilized, they are not.

Does our we include these?

Or what about those grieving for dead sons, daughters,
brothers, sisters, friends, lying in blood on our streets,
victims of drive-bys and of trigger-happy cops
not to mention those still living who walk in fear,
holding their black and brown bodies hard and ready,
swaggering perhaps to hide the terror inside,
or the transwomen, especially those of darker hue,
who rank so high on the dead-to-be list,
and those lying in pools of their own lost identities
begging when they can for a scrap, a bottle, a kind word.

Does our we include these?

And what of those from away who journey here,
to this land we call ours,
seeking safety, work, and education,
a chance to break out of stifling, dangerous
roles and hierarchies, to breathe free air
we proclaim is the birthright of all God’s people
even as we continue to say some are more godly
than others, and their children told to dream,
but will it be deferred, even denied?

Does our we include these?

Queers, too, those who love differently,
their bodies performing outside the gender rules and roles,
for whom sex is an active language of desire
not merely a way to catch someone else’s eye
(though maybe that as well, in joy and fun and hope)
or snag their money in a purchase claiming to create
sexiness or success more than ever seemed possible—
sex workers as well–all who impudently challenge what others
claim is God’s unchanging law that only one man on top
of one matrimonial woman is ever allowed?

Does our we include these?

And homeless ones for whom alcoves and heating vents
become havens during frigid nights, huddled beneath raggedy cardboard
quilts, rickety shopping carts the only storage units
they will ever rent? And the millions even with homes of their own
with little or no health care or fearing the zeal of some
to take what they have by providing credits they can never use?
And those who do not believe, or believe in ways not as we do,
what of them? Do all these give thanks or perhaps they feel other ways,
not sure they are blessed enough to join in our thanks-giving,
instead joining in an unruly, but sacred, chorus of thanks-grieving?

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing.
Who does your , and my, we include?
 

About this poem . . . . My dear friend and mentor of sainted memory, Rev. Dr. Ibrahim Farajajé, long ago told me about Thanksgrieving, a time when he, as an Africanibrahim American and Native American man, would join with many others to feel both gratitude and deep pain and loss for being alive on this one day each year when in the United States we pause to give thanks. My people, and many others, he said, paid so dearly that others, people who look like you, Robin, might carve a turkey and feel good about yourselves. I promised him I would never forget, and that I would seek to do what I can to help all of us remember and to give thanks for the sacrifice of so many, and to work to change the present and future so such sacrifice is no longer required.

 

 

©Robin Gorsline 2016 Fatihfulpoetics.net

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